31 January 2005

Single...With Children: What Is The Definition Of A Heroine?

Single With Children: People overlook the everyday heroines

By Susie Parker

Publication Date: 03/27/02

First of all, thanks to everyone who e-mailed me with kind words over the recent health scare with my dad. Each one was a blessing to me, and I have kept all of them in a special folder that I will dip into from time to time when I need comfort. It reminded me of the innate kindness of readers.

My 18-year-old daughter informed me the other day that March is "Women's History Month." I was not aware of this. Katie was not only aware but also more than a little unhappy that I was ignorant of the fact. I could tell this because she fixed me with one of those "what planet have you been living on?" looks. I get that a lot and most of the time with good reason. She went to the periodicals section of the bookstore searching out stories in magazines celebrating her most revered feminine heroines and icons. She came out empty-handed and incensed. There's very little gray area when it comes to Katie. She's highly opinionated, passionate in her interests and not the least bit shy about sharing them with anyone. I have to admit I love this quality.

Over a cup of tea, she regaled me with what she termed a short list of all the women who should be honored in some form this month. At first, I only politely listened. However, Katie taught me that history isn't simply about the men who wrote and signed the U.S. Constitution, the man who discovered the vaccination for polio, or even the hardscrabble pioneers heading West in the 1800s to stake a claim on an unknown future.

She introduced me to women who have made a huge impact with their lives. Women like Lucretia Mott, Alice Coachman, Empress Wu Zetian, Anna Comnena, Jeanne d'Arc, Delores Huerta, Elizabeth I, Mbande Nzinga, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Hutchinson, Sally Ride, Mother Theresa, Susette La Flesche, Georgia O'Keeffe, Ella Grasso, Sara and Angelina Grimke, Dorothy Height, Antonia Novello, Katharine Graham, Emily Dickinson, Dorothea Dix, Elizabeth Blackwell, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jane Addams, Indira Gandhi, Valentina Tereshkova, Anne Frank, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Golda Meir, Willa Cather and Frida Kahlo...just to name a "few."

How did she know all of this by the age 18, I wondered? And not only could she list these women, she gave me a brief, concise bio on each of them. I was impressed and suddenly realized why she felt so impassioned and disappointed that there wasn't more attention paid to their varied contributions.

As we continued the discussion, I started thinking of all of the women I have met in my own life who have awed and amazed me. People I've unwittingly met on this path that is my life and who have touched my existence with their presence, making my walk more illuminated, safe, colorful and just plain fun. Haven't we all met women who have done that for us? There have been so many teachers, nurses, doctors, writers, administrators and the list goes on.

And right along with the women who have possessed the highest of professional degrees and certifications, I have been equally touched by a secretary in an office who offered me comfort and support when I was preparing for a meeting I didn't want to attend. The woman at the pharmacy who always fills my prescriptions and warms my heart with her consideration and quick wit. There is the quiet, but irresistibly smiling woman in the passport office who, after five minutes of conversation in which we realized we lived within blocks of each other, and even after handing me a form with a list of documents I couldn't help but laugh at, was to become one of my very best friends in this world. I thought I was going in to get official documents so that I could take my kids to France. I never imagined I would come out with the even more valuable bonus of a friendship that is rich, deep and precious to this day. She's the kind of friend you can call up at 3 a.m. and say, "Hey, I've got a crisis here. Can you meet me in Kansas City?" and will be there without batting an eyelash. Everyone needs at least one friend like that, even if she does require official birth certificates with the seals!

Extraordinary women can come in many forms and probably none that have impacted my life will ever make it onto some illustrious list such as the one Katie presented me with. The thing of it is that they don't have to possess membership on some elite roster of "Famous Women" in order to make a difference. It simply isn't required. Perhaps the women on my daughter's list had a venue that allowed their contributions and talents exposure to a greater number of people. That's a wonderful thing but not, I reminded Katie, the most impressive thing.

There is a vast quantity of women in of our spheres who perform the amazing feat of working, taking great and tender care of their children, making themselves available for all manner of extracurricular scholastic events. They can recognize a frown and take the time to listen and work at making it a smile, and never let their kids fall asleep without the reassurance of being loved by delivering a hug, a kiss and a shared prayer. They don't seek out a spotlight and, in fact, wouldn't imagine a fuss being made over what they consider their everyday, routine lives.

You probably don't have to work too hard to recall one of these amazing females. When you do, why not take the extra time to tell them that they truly are making an important difference? A kind word, a pat on the back, even an unexpected bunch of daisies, doesn't require a lot from any of us, but it can mean the world to someone that doesn't have the time to realize how truly special they are. In fact, it doesn't even have to be March for you to do this.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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